For longtime Wantagh resident Karen Lofgren and her family, John Theissen Children’s Foundation holds a special place in their hearts.
“My family has lived in Wantagh for 48 years,” Lofgren said, “and we’ve been involved with the foundation for many of those years.”
Lofgren’s family will sponsor this year’s Freaky 5K Walk and .25 Mile Trick or Treat Trot, two Halloween-themed fundraisers organized by the nonprofit. All proceeds from the walk, slated for Oct. 17, will go toward the foundation’s Wish Program, tied to the Make A Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.
Lofgren will sponsor, she said, to honor the memory of her father, Bob Nicosia, who died in October 2008 due to a 9/11-related illness. “Raising funds for such an important cause like this foundation brings honor to our family and to Bob,” Lofgren said. “We are hoping all of our family and friends will keep Bob in their prayers and memories by supporting this event and participating in the races.”
Founder John Theissen of Wantagh said that the ninth annual event is something “the whole neighborhood looks forward to.”
“We have a ton of residents who stand outside their front doors and wait for the runners to pass by so they can cheer us on, Theissen said. “The community is always very supportive and the 5k walk is always an awesome time.”
The “freaky” race will begin at 8:30 a.m. behind the foundation’s headquarters, the John Theissen Family Fun Center, at 1881 Wantagh Ave. Racers will loop onto Park Avenue and continue down the backstreets of Wantagh, finishing in the parking lot behind the center.
The timed walk will include water stops, mile marketers and clocks for runners. A candy stop will be at the 1.5 mile marker. Here, runners can stop and grab Halloween candy, which is especially popular for families with children, said Theissen. There will also be refreshments available for runners past the finish line.
Prior to the walk, from 8 to 8:30 a.m. children under 10 years old are invited to participate in the “Trick or Trot.” Each child will be provided with a goody bag at the end of that race.
“This event is perfect for both competitive runners and people who want to walk for fun,” explained Theissen. “We have top athletes who run and want to see their best time and we have families who just want to get outside and have a fun, casual walk through Wantagh.”
All participants are encouraged to dress up in Halloween costumes to win best costume awards in three categories: adults 18 and older, children and teens 10-17 years old and children under 10 years old.
Tickets to participate in the walk are $20 if registered in advance on the foundation’s website. Participation will cost $25 if purchased on the day of the event. Long sleeve shirts will also be distributed to the first 700 registrants.
Corey Roberts, manager of Baldwin-based event company Race Awesome Inc., said he works closely with the John Theissen Foundation and is looking forward to this year’s walk.
“We are very excited that the walk is coming back,” Roberts said. “It didn’t happen last year because of Covid-19, and we are super happy to be involved again and help raise money for underprivileged children.”
Roberts, who lives in Baldwin, organizes races all over Long Island to raise money for various charitable causes such as the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research and the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance. He has also worked with the John Theissen foundation since 2014 and helps them organize their 5k walk each year.
“We always look for charities that do really great things in our local community,” said Roberts, “That’s why we chose to work with John. … he does a tremendous amount of work to help our local community.”